Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Do you ever find yourself perusing Pinterest, or Facebook, or even sitting in a lobby flipping through a copy of Taste of Home only to see yet another salad ‘meal’ recipe and just keep flipping (or scrolling) because you just know either you’ll be the only one who likes it or it’s got a 50/50 shot at best? I can’t tell you how many times this has been me. If it’s been you too, then this is the salad recipe for you. This salad and dressing are packing the protein and the dressing is so yummy they’re not even gonna guess it’s got a good for em base.

 Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad With A Cool Avocado Dressing

Let the little bit of spice give ’em a kick in the pants. After all hasn’t Mom always told you to eat your greens? They’re good for you. Geez! Sorry. Seriously, sorry. Sometimes the mom in me just comes waltzing right on out and into my conversations. There’s really no stopping it. But back to topic. Healthy AND tasty.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Creamy Avocado Dressing

This is a salad for the people. The people who love salad. The people who suffer through salad. And especially the people who take one look at a salad and stick there nose up in the air because a salad can’t possibly be a satisfying meal.

Give it a try, and tell me if it doesn’t leave em asking for more 🙂 Top it with tortilla strips or a few crushed tortilla chips for that crunchy piese de résistance. And then try to hide the smirk while you politely refrain from telling them ‘I told you so’. Nope, scratch that. You can totally smirk.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Avocado Dressing

For the Southwest Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 cup of drained can corn or thawed frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced roma tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese, or more to taste
crispy tortilla strips or tortilla chips

For the Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

1 small avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small jalapeno, seeded, de-veined and roughly chopped, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
juice from 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
tiniest of dashes of cayenne pepper, optional

Directions

1. Add all of the Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides down as needed. If using it, add in the cayenne pepper before adding additional salt and pepper to taste. If your dressing is too thick, then add in a little extra milk and stir until you’re reached the desired consistency. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl, except for the tortilla strips/chips,  and toss to combine.
3. Toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing or drizzle dressing over individual servings, especially if you’re not planning to polish off the entire salad in one meal.
4. Garnish the salad, or servings, with tortilla strips, or tortilla chips and freshly cracked salt and pepper.

Are your hungry, hungry omnivores still looking for more protein and/or a denser dish? Serve it topped with grilled chicken strips and they’ll love it.

recipe adapted from Carlsbad Cravings

Sous Chef Sunday: Big Mac Pizza

Wanna add some ‘wow’ into your family’s next pizza night? Our Big Mac Pizza is sure to do the trick. The sons could not gt over the fact that it tasted just. like. the sandwich. It’s pretty epic. The whole concept combines two of their most favorite things: fast food & pizza. And Mom’s actually letting them have both? IN THE SAME NIGHT?? They were on cloud 9, and I’m pretty sure if they’d floated any higher they would’ve floated away.

Big Mac Pizza

You don’t have to go super fancy just to change things up a bit. This pizza is a fun twist, but it’s still family friendly, and easy to assemble. And I’ll let you in on a little secret I discovered during the making of this dish. You wanna get the kids in the kitchen fast? Want them to actually want to help you fix dinner? WITHOUT complaining? Put the words ‘big mac’ in the name of whatever you’re having. Problem solved 🙂

Big Mac Pizza

Big Mac Pizza 2

pizza dough, homemade, store-bought, or pre made will all work
Olive oil (if you’re using fresh dough)
Thousand Island salad dressing
6-8 slices of yellow American cheese
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
grape tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized skillet, brown the ground beef. Season the meat with salt and pepper, to taste. Drain the cooked beef and set aside.

2.For pizza dough, lightly grease a pizza pan or large cookie sheet. Pat or roll the dough out into pan and lightly drizzle some olive oil over the top of the crust and then bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

3. Top the pizza crust with Thousand Island salad dressing and just like you would with sauce, use a lade or the back of a spoon to evenly spread the dressing out over the crust all the way up to the crusts edges. Top the spread dressing with the American cheese slices, and don’t worry if they don’t completely cover the entire pizza. Top the cheese with the ground beef. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese evenly over top of the beef.

4. Bake the pizza at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

5. Remove from the oven and allow the pizza to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, before cutting it into slices.

6. To serve, top the cooled pizza with shredded lettuce, tomato and additional Thousand Island, if desired. Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Love Bakes Good Cakes

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

There’s just something about a chicken sandwich, specifically, a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, that is just out of those world delicious. Especially in the realm of fast food. And who can blame them for the uber simple, streamlined menu. It’s hard to top perfection. And perfect the boneless, fried chicken breast they have. And for years we’ve craved that taste, paired with delicious dill pickles. And for years I’ve been angered, depressed, even sickened once by my failure to achieve anything close to it at home. Don’t get me wrong, I usually will find any reason to justify coughing up some extra cash for a pit stop at the nearest one, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. (Heeellllooo, Sundays at lunch time, every single time, when we pull in only to face palm after realizing, duh! they’re closed) And yet, the craving still demands to be satisfied. So what’s a gal to do???

 Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

She keeps right on trying, dammit!! And lo and behold, we finally have a winner folks! I kid you not, the flavor is spot on. I was even able to feed everyone, at 1 sandwich a piece with only two breasts. Two! and yes you read that right. I can’t even get over these, that’s how good they were. The hubs, the sons, everyone has asked for them repeatedly. Anytime I ask what we should have for supper, this is there answer. The hubs liked it so much he had two, two, and then stared down my sandwich every.single. bite. I took the entire meal. He even told me to name my price! Oh the things I can get that man to do for a bite of this sandwich. (cue the witchy, evil laugh) But really, that honey do-list? Totally, nonchalantly pushing it across the table…

The secret? The marinade before the seasoned breading. It’s pickle juice. And no for all the pickle haters out there, it doesn’t leave the chicken tasting pickle-y. For added authenticity, serve these on buttered, toasted hamburger buns with two pickle slices each.

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A sandwiches 2

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (we get 3 patties er breast)
1/4 cup dill pickle juice
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
tiny dash of cayenne
Oil for frying (about a cup), if you’re going for authenticity use peanut oil, I usually just us vegetable oil and they still taste phenomenal
Buns (buttered and toasted)
dill pickle slices/ ‘chips’

Directions

1. Wrap the chicken loosely between plastic wrap and pound gently with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until it’s only about ½ inch thick all around.
2. Cut the breast into two, or three, pieces, as evenly as possible.
3. Marinate the chicken in pickle juice for at least 30 minutes, and up to one hour.
4. Beat the egg with the milk in a bowl.
5. Combine the flour, sugar, and spices in another bowl.
6. Dip the chicken pieces each into the egg on both sides, then coat in flour on both sides.
7. Heat the oil in a skillet (1/2 inch deep) to about 345-350 degrees.
8. Fry each cutlet for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on the outside and cooked through.
9. Remove from the skillet onto paper towels. Blot to remove any excess oil, and serve on toasted buns with pickle slices.

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

The tenderest, juiciest seasoned pot roast ever is cooked in the crockpot before being piled high on crusty baguettes with melted provolone cheese. Served with their own yummy au jus, these Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches are dippable perfection you just can’t get enough of.  

crockpot-french-dip-sandwiches-4 Read more

Sous Chef Sunday: Cuban Hot Dogs or Cubano Dogs

Ok, the sons are the sons, and Lord knows I love my boys, BUT in the past few months the lazy/put upon bug has bitten them in the butt. HARD. Yes, I expect you to help with dinner. Is it going to kill you? No. You’ve got no problem eating the 4 course meal, and you expect me to help with homework, run you around, and generally revolve my whole world around anything you deem fit. SO, if I need a little help with some prep work? You’d better pretend to be willing to lend a hand. That being said, their idea of a complicated recipe and mine are totally different. You ask them to dice or chop and onion, and just the thought has them crying crocodile tears. Big babies. That’s what those big fat science safety goggles are for! 😉

That being said, I try to pick my battles. So if it’s actually their turn to cook, or I delegate the job (yep, it happens) I try to keep their sometimes waning enthusiasm in mind. Things like Cuban hot dogs are perfect for these nights. Still relatively easy, but still technically a recipe. Little prep work, mostly just assembly. And pair it with a simple tossed salad? Or some steamed veggies? Dinner. Is. Done.

So for this Sous Chef Sunday were bringing you dogs. Hot dogs, but not just any hot dogs. CUBAN hot dogs. This may not be the prettiest picture we’ve ever taken, but man oh man don’t let that turn you away. This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy a hotdog! So good! It’s a flavor picnic packaged neatly in a little bun.

Cuban Hot Dogs/Cubano Dogs

Cuban Style Hotdogs

4 hot dogs, we prefer the all beef variety
8 thin slices of Swiss cheese
8 slices of deli ham
4 buns
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
prepared yellow mustard
4 dill pickle spears

Directions

1. Cook the hot dogs however you normally would.
2. Place the opened hot dogs buns on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and layer two pieces each of cheese and sliced ham over the inside of the bun. When the hotdogs are just about done cooking, put the buns in the oven and broil until they’re toasted and the cheese is melted. This step is optional. I prefer the toasty, melty cheese version, but the hungry sons usually skip it to get it on their plates faster 🙂
3. Place the cooked hot dogs in the buns and top each with a pickle, onions, and a drizzle of mustard.

recipe adapted from Sweet Treats & More

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad is the new twist on the traditional Spring & Summer side dish you’re gonna want in on. It’s light yet creamy, and packin’ some flavor. It’s destined to be a star side dish at any picnics, barbecues, and even backyard patio dinners. 

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

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Asian Chicken Wraps

Spring has sprung which, for the sons and I, meant another Spring Break sprung (up) upon us and just as sneakily slipped away. Everybody enjoyed themselves for the most part. A few days were touch and go though. Son # 4 has developed a case of motor mouth. If he’s awake, it’s running. It’s pumpking out questions. Everything is why? And he’s a repeater. It doesn’t matter how fa into a sentence or a story he is, if he gets interupted by anything, he begins again. From the begining, repeating every words just the same, whether it’s the third or fifteenth try. And I mean interrupted by anything. By me, by another thought, but a bird chirping when he’s trying to talk. The whole world must stop and give their full attention to every. single. word. Aside from that he doesn’t talk. He spells. Everything. He asks to spell everything. It’s like having a conversation in textlish. ‘I W-A-N-T … … Mama, how do you spell lunch again? L-U-N-C-H.” Most days it’s cute, but by day 4 I had pulled out the plug. Ear plugs, a great investment for any parent.

But speaking of lunch, with a whole week of everyone home for all their meals I do try to ‘spice’ things up a bit, after all it is Spring Break. Even if we’re staying home we can still pretend we’re on vacation right? We don’t have to be as responsible, and that’s reason enough to celebrate. So plain old, ho hum lunches just wouldn’t do. Sandwiches just scream ‘school day’. We want lunches that loudly proclaim, we’re home for a week full of sleeping in, binge watching tv, and lots of fort building in the woods. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found wraps are a good way to transform a boring sandwich into something that’s so much more. It’s ok to break away from the loaf and leave the boring sandwich behind.

This east meets west, easy wrap idea is perfect for lunch, or even a lighter dinner. And doesn’t an Asian Chicken Wrap sound way more exciting than a sandwich? Chock full of flavor with a perfect chow mein noodle crunch these were the perfect way to say ‘School’s out for Spring Break’.

Asian Chicken Wraps

 Asian Chicken Wraps

4 medium sized tortillas
2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced into strips
2/3 cup General Tso’s sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
romaine lettuce, or other lettuce variety of choice
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 tbsp chow mein noodles

Directions

1. In a small skillet or pot, add both sauces and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
2. Add the cooked, sliced chicken to a medium sized bowl and pour the prepared sauce over top. Stir to toss the chicken with the sauce until all the chicken is well coated.
3. To make each wrap, add about 1/3 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup chicken slices, 1/4 cup carrots slices, and 1 tbsp chow mein noodles down the center or each tortilla.
4. Fold in the top and bottom of each tortilla and then roll it up. Enjoy!

Pizza Pinwheels

Have you hopped on the Greek yogurt band wagon yet? You’ve at least heard about it, I’m sure. Greek yogurt is great. It’s great for you, and packed with protein. Did you know that in roughly the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt is able to pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half? No? See, this is one of the major reasons that within the past couple years, Greek yogurt has managed to elbow it’s way onto refrigerator shelves everywhere. If you’re wondering what makes it different, besides just the nutrition info, from it’s ‘regular’ counterpart, the Mediterranean version has been strained of it’s whey giving it an undeniably tangier and less sweet, as well as creamier, taste. We’ve gone exclusively Greek in the yogurt department. But we haven’t stopped there. Greek yogurt opens up tons of options in the recipe department. We love swapping it for sour cream in recipes, and even for cream cheese and mayonnaise. There is so much untapped potential there. Chobani has even created a handy conversion chart so there’s no guess work involved.

chobani conversion chart

When I was contacted by them a few weeks ago, I knew it wasn’t going to be a chore to come up with something snazzy to share with you guys that featured Chobani’s Greek Yogurt. Without further adieu, we’re bringing you these Pizza Pinwheels that are #madewithChobani.

 Pizza Pinwheels

Pinwheels are a great option for a variety of needs. Lunches? Check. A denser snack? Check. An alternative to your traditional pizza night? Check. Initially, the sons were suspicious. One bite was enough to woo them though. The seasonings are perfect. The creamy yogurt pairs perfectly with some of our favorite fixings, packing more protein into every bite while leaving the extra calories behind.

Pizza Pinwheels

Pizza Pinwheels 2

4 ounces fat free cream cheese, softened
1/4-1/3 cup plain Chobani Greek yogurt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup diced black olives
1/4 cup diced green, red, or yellow peppers
1/2 cup pepperoni
3 medium tortilla shells

Directions

1. In a small bowl, add the cream cheese, yogurt, oregano, and garlic powder. Stir until everything is evenly incorporated and the mixture’s nice and creamy. Next, stir in the cheeses. Using a knife or spatula, gently spread the cheese mixture evenly ever the flat tortilla shells. 2. Once you’ve spread your cheese mixture out, evenly sprinkle the olives and peppers over the cheese mixture. Finally, create a layer of pepperoni over the sprinkled toppings on each tortilla. Gently roll the tortillas up tightly (like a jelly roll), making sure everything stays inside. Wrap the tortilla roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 3. Remove from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Cut each tortilla into roughly 8 pinwheels. Serve with toothpicks if desired. Makes roughly 24 pinwheels.

*Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions expressed are my own.*

Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

These sliders. If you’ve seen them floating around the web, but haven’t given them a try yet, now’s the time to get to it. They really are that good. After my first bite, I could’ve kicked my own self for dragging my feet for so long.

Ooey, gooey finger-lickin’ good. Yes, that’s exactly what these sandwiches are. Prepare for the deliciousness. I think we can all agree that when cheese is involved with any meat, it’s pretty much a wonderful thing. Ham and cheese may be a beloved classic, and most definitely a wonderful thing, but add in the poppy seed mustard butter onion sauce thing and it’s umm, wow! The sauce is what really knocks this one out of the park.

 Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

So they’re yummy, and super simple to assemble, two things that don’t always go hand-in-hand in the kitchen. Doesn’t that just make them perfect for even your busiest days or nights?

The sons’ and the hubs drool over these things now, even the leftovers (if there are any the next day, which is rare). Are you thinking it sounds great, but bummed because you don’t have tiny any pretty petite buns on hand? If you’ve got some kind of larger bun, you’re in luck. I’ve made these on kaiser rolls, dinner rolls, and once even on hamburger buns with the same drool-worthy results.

Game day, brunch, a regular party, dinner, even a hot lunch. Whatever the occasion these bad boys will be the stars of the show.

Don’t want any pressure? Great. The sandwiches can be made up to a day in advance. Just don’t fix and sauce ’em until you’re ready to heat and serve. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with mush. And I haven’t met a ‘mush’ yet that I actually liked.

Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

Hot Ham & Swiss Cheese Sliders

24 Hawaiian rolls or slider buns
24 pieces of ham, regular or honey flavored
24 slices of Swiss cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Poppy Seed Mustard Sauce:
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1½ tbsp yellow mustard
½ cup butter, melted
1 tbsp minced onion
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions 

1. Spread the mayo onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese inside of each roll. Close the rolls and place them close together into a large baking dish, or onto a heavy cookie sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until evenly combined. Pour the sauce as evenly as possible overtop all of the sandwiches. If you don’t want to use all of the sauce that’s ok. Just make sure to use enough to cover the tops of the rolls. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is nice and melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly browned and crisped. Serve warm.

Sous Chef Sunday: Grilled Mac N Cheese Sandwich

If you’ve never had a mac n cheese grilled cheese sandwich, then you’ve never really lived. It’s exactly what it sounds like: creamy macaroni and cheese stuffed into a sandwich with extra sharp cheddar and grilled until melty inside and golden browned to perfection on the outside. Some of you skeptic, health-conscious folk might be thinking that’s just way too much starch in one sandwich. WRONG! Those were my initial thoughts too, but alas, that is not the case. The starchy side and the sandwich aspect work harmoniously well together, creating a euphoric eating experience unlike any other. It’s a fusion of the ultimate comfort foods that results in a beautiful soul food hybrid. This, my friends, is heaven.

This recipe makes two sandwiches at once. Needing more than that? Just double the recipe as needed. I’ve always got to make 3 ‘batches’. Wanting to dial back the cheesiness a bit? You can opt out of adding the extra slices of cheddar? Even the cheese is flexible? Don’t like cheddar? American works well. Prefer a white cheddar macaroni and cheese? Use white cheddar slices, or even mozzarella or provolone. Cheese is very forgiving. 🙂

Grilled Mac N Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich

4 slices Sourdough (or other dense bread)
1½ cups leftover Macaroni & Cheese
8 slices American or Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp Butter

 Directions

1. In a small nonstick skillet place heat ¾ cup of mac & cheese over medium heat.
2. Once warm (about 3-4 minutes), shape mac & cheese into a pile about the size of the bread and top with 2 slices of cheese.
3. Turn off heat.
4. Butter 2 slices of bread.
5. Place bread butter side down in another skillet over medium heat.
6. Top one of the bread slices with 2 slices cheese.
7. Use spatula to lift corner and check done-ness.
8. When lightly browned turn off heat. Use spatula to transfer mac & cheese rectangle onto cheese covered bread in the skillet.
9. Cover with the other bread slice, toasted side up. Gently press together with spatula and transfer to a plate.
10. Serve immediately.